Ashmont Hill, by which this family quartet derives its name, is actually the moniker of an idyllic community in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. If you have ever visited Boston, you would know noticed that Boston is the hub where the historic and the contemporary intermingle like the best of friends. Boston, as history buffs would testify, is where the crucial events of the American Revolution such as the Boston Tea Party and the Boston massacre unfolded. However, also known as the Athens of America where numerous universities thrive, Boston is also the purveyor of the most updated and newest research. Just like their city, the music of Ashmont Hill is also where the historic sounds of traditional Gospel meets the latest melange of pop, folk, jazz and blues. Ashmont Hill is made up of four members of the Thompson family. Coming from the Jubilee church (the church in which their father is Bishop) Ashmont Hill is Phil Thompson, sisters April Joy Thompson and Deborah Bullock, along with Deborah's husband, Will Bullock.
"The Maze" is Ashmont Hill's third release and it is also their much anticipated follow-up to 2010's "Your Masterpiece." Even prior to the album's release, lead single "Love Lifted Me" already has had a promising start. Spending 18 staggering weeks already on the Christian singles chart "Love Lifted Me" has become a radio staple. Written by Zenzo Matoga and Philip Nathan Thompson, "Love Lifted Me" is a sonic companion to the ancient hymn of the same titular. Whereas the latter was a horizontal exaltation from one believer to another about the power of Christ's love, the former is a vertical address to God in thanksgiving for the same love. Again utilizing John Newton's "Amazing Grace" as the song's germane idea, the newly penned song of the same title shows how Ashmont Hill can interweave the traditional and the contemporary together with ingenuity and heart. "Fill This Temple" again stretches the genre categorization with inventiveness. This newly penned worship ballad possesses elements of both traditional hymnism as well as contemporary neo-soul.
The title track "The Maze" speaks of God rescuing us out of the twists and turns of sin. Normally, when we are lost in a maze it's not easily to hold one's composure. But with God looking down on us and directing us out, we can be at rest. This is dexterously conveyed through Ashmont Hill's vocals which are subtly delivered with a placid nuance. On the other hand, hear this foursome let loose on "I Will Give Praise;" here they come out vocally on full force reaching for all the glory notes on this straight ahead Gospel stomper. While the "Heaven's Sound" finds the group more in Hillsong territory with their "ooooh" hook and the guitar-driven melodic drive. Of interest also is "If I Had Wings." Featuring an extended flamenco-flavored guitar intro, "If I Had Wings" is an unusual-folk sounding prayer of help to the Lord.
Often the cringe factor exponential increases when an artist bring in his or her kid to sing with them. But not so when Philip Nathan Thompson brings in his 9 year-old daughter Gabriela Joy Thompson. Gabby not only sings but she also co-wrItes "Gabby's Song (I Love the Lord)." Gabby's innocent delivery and the song's simple melody bring out a child-like beauty as she sings: "When I am crying, I know He loves me/When I am looking, I know He's there/When I am thirsty, He is my wellspring/When I am lonely, He is my friend." Just as Ashmont Hill (the locale) brims with a variegated culture, history and future, so does the band. "The Maze" provides us with a wonderful map for us to traverse through such different sonic landscapes; but with the Lord's presence looming largely over these songs, we sure will not get lost.